Gain structure & Volume automation Best Practice

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starfckr
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Gain structure & Volume automation Best Practice

Post by starfckr » Sat Jun 25, 2011 7:14 am

Hi Everybody,


I have a question about best practice when it comes to gain structuring and volume automation.

I have a song with a heavy hitting intro that for example consists of:
Several synths
Drums
Guitar
Layered bass

Which, when played, gives me about -6db on the main output.
Then, in the chorus of the song, i have roughly the same parts playing, but with an additional tracks of resampled vocals, which gives me about -3db on the main output.

I want the intro to be comperatively the same in loudness as the chorus, and my question is, what is the best practice for getting the same levels on different musical aspects in a song?

As i see it, there are two different solutions.

1. Mix every instrument so it fits in the mix, but fix the gain levels in the master.
2. Treat every musical part in a song as it own thing, and set all the levels on each instrument differently for each part.

For me, solution #2 seems to be the best way, but i often find it difficult to find a good workflow for this procedure.
As you probably know, there are several ways of automating levels on a track:

1. Find the loudest section of each instrument in the song, adjust the tracks fader at this point, and then do further adjusting of the volume for other parts of the song in the clip envelope.

2. Same thing. Find the loudest section of each instrument in the song, but now use track automation to adjust the volume of each instruments in the different musical parts.

3. Set the levers roughly for each instruments, and then use the utility plugin to adjust the volume for different parts of the song.

Each of theese have different pros and cons.
What do you guys do? Is there a best practice for this kind of gain structuring? And how do you prefer to do your volume automation?

starfckr
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Re: Gain structure & Volume automation Best Practice

Post by starfckr » Sat Jun 25, 2011 7:53 am

I would never automate volume. If I wanna tweak it I would use Utility or the volume of the device or something. That way you are still free to tweak the overall volumes later. I also have stuff in groups, and they all go into a submix, so I can tweak the volume of those or automate them (with a utility) if needed. I don't know of any drawbacks to using Utilities.
Yeah, i forgot to mention that submixing could be used in this regard. Altough, it doesnt really give you more control over the volume of indivudial instruments that needs different volumes for different parts of the song, as it would still have to be automated.

When using the utility, do you automate the utility plugin then?
For me this seems the one of the best solutions so far, as you would still have controll over the main track fader for each instruments to do larger adjustments when needed.

luddy
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Re: Gain structure & Volume automation Best Practice

Post by luddy » Sat Jun 25, 2011 8:27 am

I like to keep my track faders and master free of automation so I can quickly tweak relative balance among things without disturbing the automation I've set up for particular song sections etc.

One way to make the overall sectionwise balancing easier is, after you've automated individual tracks etc., route related groups of tracks to a single "bus" track (like a return track, but I use regular tracks for this), and automate the volume of that bus track to get the master balance you want. For example, maybe all your synths go to one such bus track, bg vox to another, and so on. So you have just a few bus tracks to automate in order to get the big section volume changes you need. Kinda how things were done in the old days, between bouncing tracks down and using analog console bus structure.

-Luddy

kev herb
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Re: Gain structure & Volume automation Best Practice

Post by kev herb » Sat Jun 25, 2011 8:52 am

automate the utility gain knob is definitely the way to go :wink:
Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia- Fear of long words

starfckr
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Re: Gain structure & Volume automation Best Practice

Post by starfckr » Sat Jun 25, 2011 9:21 am

kev herb wrote:automate the utility gain knob is definitely the way to go :wink:
Are there any drawbacks to doing this automation on the utility gain directly on the master?
Because i do this now, on almost every instrument, or groups, but it quickly becomes very complicated when dealing with a lot of tracks and subgroups.

The reason i ask this is because it seems much easier, to make a whole section louder, on the master track, instead of automating every instrument, or group of instruments, on sections of a song - if the whole point of this excercise is just to make certain sections of the song louder compared to other parts.

garyd7
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Re: Gain structure & Volume automation Best Practice

Post by garyd7 » Sat Jun 25, 2011 11:45 am

Would compression on the master channel not be the simplest option?

starfckr
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Re: Gain structure & Volume automation Best Practice

Post by starfckr » Sat Jun 25, 2011 3:05 pm

garyd7 wrote:Would compression on the master channel not be the simplest option?
Well, personally i never use compression/limiting on the master channel. Prefer to leave that for the mastering engineer.

But you are right, in mastering, controlling the dynamics, this can be fixed, but i prefer to get all the levels right in the mix.

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